Sensitively done and consistently touching, the most endearing show of summer pops up on ABC Family.

Willamina - Nikki Blonsky Amber - Hayley Hasselhoff Dr. Dorothy Rand - Gina Torres George - Zander Eckhouse Ian - Ari Stidham Becca - Raven Goodwin Alistair - Harvey Guillen Chloe - Ashley Holliday Trent - Stefan Van Ray

There’s no finer testament to the qualitative breadth of TV drama than seeing the most endearing show of the summer pop up on ABC Family. The setting is oddly appropriate, inasmuch as “Huge” is a bigtime family affair — co-created by mother-daughter team Winnie Holzman (“My So-Called Life”) and Savannah Dooley, with husband-dad Paul Dooley in a supporting role and Holzman’s brother manning the camera. Sensitively done and consistently touching, this is a series any network could proudly include on its roster — one that appeals to anyone who’s ever thought twice about eating a bear claw.

Based on Sasha Paley’s book, “Huge” focuses on the kids at a summer fat camp, where they are shipped off to slim down. Not surprisingly, the recidivism rate is high, with several referring to past visits and shed pounds that quickly returned.

Refreshingly, there are no truly bad kids at Camp Victory, which they ruefully refer to as an escape from “the real world,” and which holds its share of unwelcome moments for the plus-sized. The program initially centers on a surly new arrival, Willamina, or Will (“Hairspray’s” Nikki Blonsky), who objects to the concept of such a camp as a not-so-subtle rejection of not just her but of overweight kids everywhere.

Will’s rebellious nature puts her at odds with the camp administrator (Gina Torres) and Amber (Hayley Hasselhoff — yes, David’s daughter), a bunkmate who posts pictures of skinny models as motivation. Despite being an object of lust for many, Amber sets her own sights on a handsome, well-built trainer (Zander Eckhouse).

In short, “Huge” is one big circle of adolescent longing, and Holz-man and Dooley manage to find the pathos in the situation without condescending or going for cheap laughs at their characters’ expense. It helps that they have done a phenomenal job in casting the series — there’s not a weak link in the bunch.

The elder Dooley, meanwhile, plays the camp’s new chef and delivers a priceless line, surveying the campers and deadpanning, “No seconds.”

The third hour, also made available for review, may be better than the first, featuring a new girl whose overprotective parents won’t leave her alone, while the other residents write letters home.

Holzman helped establish the standard for angst-ridden teen drama in “My So-Called Life,” and “Huge” brings another dimension to it — and demonstrates how a first-rate drama can be more satisfying than a similarly themed documentary effort like MTV’s “Fat Camp.”

ABC Family has already made significant inroads into original series, but due in part to its demographic focus, nothing thus far has approached this level of quality. One or two more shows like this, however, and the channel could find itself in an unusual position — turning even cranky critics into happy campers.


ABC Family, Mon. June 28, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by Half Full Entertainment and Alloy Entertainment. Executive producers, Winnie Holzman, Leslie Morgenstein, Bob Levy, John Ziffren, Kim Rozenfeld; co-executive producer, Gayle Abrams; producers, Savannah Dooley, Dan Dugan; director, Allison Liddi-Brown; writers, Dooley, Holzman; based on the book by Sasha Paley.

Crew: Camera, Ernest Holzman; production designer, Greg Grande; editor, Susan Vaill; music, W.G. Snuffy Walden, Will Walden; casting, Barbara Stordahl, Angela Terry. RUNNING TIME: 60 MIN.

Cast: Willamina - Nikki Blonsky Amber - Hayley Hasselhoff Dr. Dorothy Rand - Gina Torres George - Zander Eckhouse Ian - Ari Stidham Becca - Raven Goodwin Alistair - Harvey Guillen Chloe - Ashley Holliday Trent - Stefan Van RayWith: Paul Dooley.

More TV

  • Netflix’s ‘Undercover’ Gets New Season With

    Netflix’s ‘Undercover’ Gets Second Season, With a Story on Illegal Arms Sales

    A second season of Netflix’s first Benelux original, “Undercover,” is in production, and the story will move from focusing on the illicit drugs trade to the illegal arms business. Non-English-language drama is finding a global audience on streaming platforms, and “Undercover” has ranked as one of Netflix’s most popular series in that category in the [...]

  • Hasan Minhaj

    Nahnatchka Khan, Hasan Minhaj, 'Just Mercy' Cast Talk Inclusion

    “Always Be My Maybe” was “satisfying” to create because it gave focus to two characters that wouldn’t typically be portrayed as romantic leads, said director Nahnatchka Khan of her Netflix film at the CAA Amplify conference in Ojai, sitting on a panel with comedian Hasan Minhaj and NBA star Chris Paul. “We’re all big fans [...]

  • Sebastian Maniscalco

    Sebastian Maniscalco to Host MTV VMAs

    MTV has announced that comedian, actor and best-selling author Sebastian Maniscalco will host the 2019 “VMAs” live from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, Aug. 26. Last year, Maniscalco published his best selling book “Stay Hungry,” followed by a stand up tour of the same name. The comedian has also sold out [...]

  • T-Pain, Faheem Rashad Najm. T-Pain performs

    TV News Roundup: 'T-Pain's School of Business' Sets August Premiere

    In today’s roundup, “T-Pain’s School of Business” sets an August 6 premiere on Fuse, and OWN greenlights a new talks series. EXECUTIVE NEWS Matt Brodlie is leaving his role as director of original film at Netflix to join the Disney+ content marketing team as senior vice president of international content development. In his new role, [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs For Screens: Labrinth on Scoring HBO’s Drake-Produced Drama 'Euphoria'

    British singer-songwriter Labrinth (née Timothy Lee McKenzie) has been having one of the biggest years of his nearly decade-long career, from the April release of his collaborative album with L.S.D. (a.k.a. Labrinth Sia & Diplo) to his starring role in the latest campaign for MINI, where he reinterprets Cole Porter’s cowboy classic “Don’t Fence Me [...]

  • The Office

    'The Office' to Stream Exclusively on NBCUniversal Service Beginning in 2021

    NBCUniversal announced Tuesday that it will begin streaming “The Office” exclusively on its standalone streaming service beginning in 2021. The popular comedy series will leave Netflix once the current deal with NBCU expires at the end of 2020, the same year that NBCU plans to launch its ad-supported streaming service. All nine seasons of the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content